New Deal Or


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Race and politics have played an important part in shaping the history of the United States, from the first arrival of African slaves in the early seventeenth century to the election of an African-American president in 2008. The Great Depression and the New Deal represent a period that was no exception to the influence of race and politics. After Franklin Roosevelt succeeded Herbert Hoover to the American presidency, there was much faith and hope expressed on the editorial pages of the Indianapolis Recorder that African Americans would be treated fairly under the New Deal. Hope began to wane when little political patronage was dispensed, in the form of government jobs, once the Democrats took office in 1933. As the first incarnation of the New Deal progressed, African Americans continued to experience prejudice, segregation, unfair wages, and generally a "raw deal." But what was more, African-American women and men were not given a fair opportunity to ensure for themselves better political, social, and economic standing in the future. This struggle for full-fledged citizenship was further underscored when Congress failed to pass anti-lynching legislation in 1934 and 1935. The New Dealers, Franklin Roosevelt chief among them, did not seize the opportunity presented by the Great Depression to push for civil rights and social justice for African Americans. Their intent was not necessarily malicious. A more nuanced view of the issues shows that political expedience, and a measure of indifference, led the New Dealers to not treat civil rights as the pressing issue that it was. Roosevelt and the New Dealers believed that they faced the potential for significant resistance to their economic recovery program from Southern Democrats on Capitol Hill if they tried to interfere with race relations in the South. This thesis examines the first years of the Roosevelt Administration, roughly 1933 through 1936. This timeframe was carefully chosen because it was a period when the issues surrounding race and racism were brought to the fore. In the initial period of the New Deal we can see how Roosevelt met and failed to meet the expectations of African Americans. The prevailing view among the African American leadership in 1935, argued Harvard Sitkoff, was that the federal government had "betrayed [African Americans] under the New Deal." Sitkoff referred to these "denunciations of the New Deal by blacks" as commonplace from 1933 to 1935. But beginning with the Second New Deal in the middle 1930s the criticism turned to applause.

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